How to Catch A Criminal: I'm Your No. 1 Fan

June 26, 2024
A wannabe trying to emulate a notorious serial killer's reign of terror becomes a has-been when he's undone by a request for his autograph.

Every officer with a decent amount of time on the job knows the unexpected turns an investigation can take. Seeing a major case through to completion often involves giving up on a theory and taking your investigation in a different direction as new information becomes available. In How to Catch A Criminal, we look at the many ways not-so-perfect crimes are solved. This month, a wannabe becomes a has-been.

This article appeared in the May/June issue of OFFICER Magazine. Click Here to subscribe to OFFICER Magazine.

O n March 8, of 1990, in the early morning hours, Mario Orozco was shot in the back with a 9mm bullet while walking home from work in Brooklyn. The 49-year-old survived the encounter, but was unable to provide a description of his attacker since he was ambushed from behind. Lying next to Orozco on the sidewalk was a homemade pistol, or a “zip gun”. Attached to the weapon was a note which read “This is the Zodiac”. In the 1960’s the Zodiac Killer had committed most of his murders using a gun, but never left one behind at the scene of the crime. If this was indeed the work of the Zodiac Killer, his methods had changed slightly, and apparently so did his MO. Zodiac became known as such after giving himself the name in his initial letters to Law Enforcement in the 1960’s, though the killings had nothing to do with zodiac signs, such as Aries, Taurus, Gemini, etc. Just a few months prior to the shooting of Mario Orozco, an East New York Police precinct received a letter which read “This is the Zodiac” before going on to explain the “Zodiac” will kill the twelve Zodiac signs, and Police would not catch him.

On March 29, 34-year-old German Montenesdro was walking near the Bronx when he was approached from behind and shot in the abdomen. This time, the shooter dug through the victim’s pockets and stole his wallet and passport before fleeing. Luckily, just like Mario Orozco, Montenesdro survived his injury. At the time, there was no reason to assume this shooting was connected to the Orozco shooting. It just appeared to be regular old New York street violence.

Two months later, 78-year-old WWII veteran Joseph Proce was walking in Queens late at night when he suffered a gunshot wound to the back. He dropped to ground as the attacker vanished, first placing a note next to Proce’s body. When Police located the note, they found a shock. The note featured three astrological signs: Gemini, Taurus, and Scorpio. Below the signs was written “Zodiac- time to die”. Proce was a Taurus, leading investigators to believe a Gemini and a Scorpio had been, or soon would be attacked in the same manner. A check of recent murder victims in similar attacks and their astrological signs did not provide any leads. A check of shooting survivors, however, turned up the attacks on or Mario Orozco, a Scorpio, and German Montenesdro, a Gemini. Joseph Proce initially survived the shooting, but passed away in the hospital in June of 1990, making him the first fatality at the hands of the supposed Zodiac Killer. The killer’s threat from his first letter was coming to fruition. He was choosing his victims by their astrological signs. Three were down, with 9 to go.

On June 19, 30-year-old Larry Parham, was asleep on a park bench when he was shot in the chest. A nearby note correctly indicated Parham was a Cancer. He survived the shooting and managed to catch a glimpse of the shooter, which helped Police create a composite sketch of the New York Zodiac Killer, as he became known. Unfortunately this sketch didn’t lead to an arrest, but Parham was luckily the last victim for two years.

Though the case was effectively cold by August of 1992, a task force was still trying to solve Joseph Proce’s murder, as well as the other three shootings, but leads were becoming scant as time took its toll on the case. Until August 10. A 39-year-old woman by the name of Patricia Fonti was shot twice with a zip gun in Highland Park. The shots weren’t fatal, however, and she evidently engaged in a struggle with the shooter, who resorted to stabbing her more than 100 times to finish the job before he fled. Fonti was a Leo, checking another sign off the killers list.

On June 4, 40-year-old Jim Weber was shot in the buttocks but survived, after being confronted by an armed man in Highland Park. He was a Libra. Highland Park remained the killer’s stomping grounds through the summer of 1992 and beyond. It was there that 40-year-old Virgo, Joseph Diacone was shot in the neck with a zip gun and died at the scene. He is the only victim to die at the scene from a gunshot wound, despite being the 8th person shot by the New York Zodiac Killer. The 9th and final victim was 40-year-old Diane Ballard, who was shot in the neck on October 2nd. She survived the shooting thanks to the bullet missing her spine and arteries. Ballard was a Taurus, making her the second Taurus targeted by the Zodiac. Though three signs remained, the shootings stopped. Once again, the case was growing cold. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much more to be done but await the final three victims. That day luckily never came thanks to an unrelated domestic violence call, the case was cracked.

On June 18, 1996, New York Police responded to an apartment building regarding a domestic violence related shooting. The 911 call was placed by a neighbor of 17-year-old Gladys Seda. The neighbor stated Gladys had been shot in the back after an argument with her brother, 31-year-old brother Heriberto Seda, Eddie for short. She stated Eddie became angry when she invited a boy over to their apartment who Eddie believed to be a drug dealer. After an argument about the boy leaving, Eddie produced one of his many zip guns and began firing it around the apartment, shooting Gladys in the back as she ran out the front door. When Police arrived Eddie began shooting from the apartment window, but luckily he was unable to injure anyone of the officers as they took cover. After hours of negotiating, Seda agreed to give him self up, but was first instructed to place all of his weapons in a bucket, which was lowered down from the roof. After pulling up the bucket Officers found thirteen zip guns which Seda had created, in both 9mm and .22 calibers. Eddie was arrested without further incident, and a search of his residence turned up additional weapons, like pipe bombs and knives. Gladys survived the shooting, but it was the end of the line for Eddie.

Eddie Seda was asked if he would write a confession, admitting he shot Gladys. He obliged, but couldn’t help himself when it came to leaving his signature. Along with his name, he left some of the same symbols which were found on the New York Zodiac Killer’s letters. Between the zodiac-esque symbols and the cache of homemade pistols, the same type of weapon used to shoot all 9 victims, investigators quickly put the pieces together and began grilling Eddie about the shootings. After a lengthy interrogation, the truth came out. Eddie laid out his plan to become the next Zodiac Killer and the details of the shootings and the stabbing of Patricia Fonti.

In two separate trials in 1998, (one for the three murders, one for the six attempted murders) juries handed down guilty verdicts, resulting in a total sentence of 232 years, effectively keeping Eddie locked away for life. Seda did well to avoid capture for several years, just like his idol. Unlike the Zodiac Killer, however, Eddie Seda simply couldn’t control himself when it came time to end his criminal ways and vanish.

About the Author

Officer Brendan Rodela, Contributing Editor | Officer

Brendan Rodela is a Deputy for the Lincoln County (NM) Sheriff's Office. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice and is a certified instructor with specialized training in Domestic Violence and Interactions with Persons with Mental Impairments.

Sponsored Recommendations

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Officer, create an account today!